Top Five Ways to Carry Off-Body

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Editor’s Note: The following is a post by Mark Kakkuri, a nationally published freelance writer who covers guns and gear, 2nd Amendment issues and the outdoors. His writing and photography have appeared in many firearms-related publications, including the USCCA’s Concealed Carry Magazine. You can follow him on Twitter @markkakkuri.

Read Mark’s previous articles in this “Top Five” series:

In a previous article about carrying concealed when dressing up, I wrote the following about off-body carry:

Off Body — I don’t condone off-body carry because that means your gun is potentially out of your reach or out of your control. Still, there are times when you might be able to get away with it, depending on other gear you’re willing to have with you, in your complete control, at all times. I’ve carried a gun in a planner binder made specifically for concealed carry and kept it in my hand or in a messenger bag I keep on my shoulder all the time. It’s an exercise in compromise, to be sure, but it is possible to carry this way. Carrying a gun off-body — presumably in some kind of holster or carrier or bag — might draw some attention from others and could require a longer time to access and deploy.

Recommendation: Use an off-body carry system when you’re in a vehicle or when you know you’ll have that system in your complete control all of the time. Look into carry and concealment systems made specifically for off-body carry and consider their ability not only to hide a gun but also to lock it in place.”

That said, I hunted up some off-body carry solutions meeting those criteria. Here are my top five ways to carry off-body, with all kinds of caveats and warnings…

1. Zippered sleeve

From concealed carry planners and binders to zippered and locking sleeves you can attach to your belt, plenty of gear options exist allowing you to hide and carry a gun at the same time.

But, keep in mind a few important rules: 1. Nothing else should be in the sleeve or compartment in which your gun resides. You don’t want to fumble past keys or other stuff if you need to get your hand on your gun quickly. 2. Consider not just the stability of the gun inside a sleeve but also its orientation. Your gun should be in a holster or carrier protecting the trigger guard and keeping the gun from moving around. Moreover, depending on the orientation of the sleeve, the muzzle of the gun might end up covering something you don’t intend to destroy.

It’s better if the zippered sleeve has some kind of locking mechanism too. Although zippered sleeves likely are manufactured from some kind of durable fabric and it’s probably short work to cut through it, you simply want to do whatever you can to ensure only authorized persons can get to the gun inside it.

2. Purse/bag/briefcase

With the growing popularity of private citizen concealed carry, many purse, bag and briefcase manufacturers have responded with gear offering a dedicated compartment for carrying a gun concealed — many with hook and loop attachments, stable carriers and a lot of style. This is good.

If you carry in such a rig, just keep in mind the need to keep it in-hand and under your complete control all the time. And make sure the gear — and your handling of it — is discreet. Purses, bags and briefcases are still targets for thieves, and if they suspect you have a gun in yours, you could easily become a target. As with all other means of concealed carry, keep the gun safety rules in mind at all times.

3. Sling pack

A sling pack is basically a single-strapped backpack. You can quickly throw it over your head and around your back for cross-body carry and because of the ease of use and utility, they’re growing in popularity.

Several manufacturers offer sling packs designed specifically for concealed carry. Usually the pack has a dedicated compartment for a handgun which you access by swinging the pack from your back to your front. In other words, the sling pack never comes off of you. In fact, it offers what I consider the best form of off-body carry because it is the most on-body.

4. Hard case

Hard cases might be a tough plastic or metal, but most of them have some sort of locking mechanism. They tend to be very secure and run the gamut from looking just like a typical gun case to being fairly innocuous, but they require extra steps to access what’s inside.

So, carrying your handgun in a hard case is an exercise in compromise: what you gain in security, you lose in accessibility. Other pros of carrying in a hard case are that your gun is protected from virtually all possibility of damage, dust or water; if the case is small, it is easily transported; and, if the case is large, it can carry extra gear, such as magazines, ammunition and more.

5. Concealed carry jacket

Carrying a handgun in the compartment of a concealed carry jacket is off-body, even though you wear the jacket and your gun is very close and protected. I classify it as “off-body” because the gun is merely hidden or covered inside the jacket as opposed to attached to your person.

A concealed carry jacket often features dedicated pockets for a gun and comes with hook-and-loop attachments for a holster or carrier, making it a stable and secure means of carry. You just have to remember to keep that jacket on at all times, and therein lies the potential disadvantage.

But, unlike all the other means addressed here, there’s no extra piece of gear to carry around…you’re just wearing a jacket. Other potential drawbacks: Depending on the construction of the jacket, the weight of the fabric, the location of the pockets and the size and weight of your gun, carrying concealed might yield a jacket that droops to one side or bulges in a strange way.

Conclusion

Off-body carry is possible but must be appropriately managed, and the best modes of off-body carry keep you in close contact with and in control of your gun at all times. All of these methods have their pros and cons, but my two favorites — depending on my circumstances and what gun I’m carrying — are the sling pack and the concealed carry jacket. What are yours?

For more critical information on the use of deadly force and other firearms and self-defense topics, visit www.uscca.com/GunsAmerica.

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • Greg August 7, 2017, 10:37 am

    I live in South central Florida. This can necessitate a great deal of imagination when I carry. I even have a summer and winter gun with different carry options depending on the expected temperatures. Winter gun is normally carried close to the body in a OWB holster under a jacket. Summer gun however either goes IWB, or on beach days–off body. One thing to think of– a lot of our beaches are public parks, and there are different rules for carrying depending on who owns the park. I also may risk assess the need to carry is less than the risk of causing a public disturbance or theft (if I know we’re going in the water), so I keep a car safe cabled to the middle row in the mini-van and transfer the summer gun to the safe.

  • Russ H. August 4, 2017, 5:06 pm

    You mean my leather fanny pack is coming back in style?

  • David M Mills August 4, 2017, 4:04 pm

    Right about fanny pack, small 5 shot .38 snub fits perfectly flat and under my belly with even a t-shirt so its right there in front and at 71 style really is not an issue.I walk with neighbors every day and one of them is very anti gun, she doesn’t know I’m packing and that’s good.

  • Floyd Burdett August 4, 2017, 1:56 pm

    I usually carry a small .38 +P revolver in the pocket of my ‘safety jacket’ when I ride my motorcycle. 5 rounds easy to get to…and even to shoot thru the jacket if necessary. The holster has a belt clip on it, and I can easily move it to IWB or OWB under a loose shirt when I take off the jacket.
    I also use a “Sneaky Pete” from time to time, for a compact 9mm semi-auto…and made my own similar holster for a larger double-stack with a laser.
    Several people have mentioned conceal jackets that are ambidextrous…but most are not. As a ‘lefty’ that makes a lot of difference for me.

  • David Witheld August 4, 2017, 11:57 am

    I got a carry bag from Dillon and use it all of the time. It passes for a “standard” laptop case and fits my little Google Chromebook in that application. The other compartment carries necessities like a hairbrush, umbrella, power cords and the like. The “secret” middle compartment handles my Colt Defender and two spare magazines. I have had this bag on my shoulder when shaking hands with governors, senators and congressmen and nobody ever noticed.

    For on body I have a Galco tuckable holster that is under my standard “uniform” button down shirt.

    I suppose the carry bag is slightly less convenient than the holster, but not a lot. I’m not exactly stealthy as I untuck my shirt.

    Besides, I’m pretty sure the holster carry contributed to my mucked up sacroilliac (spelling?) joint and accompanying sciatica.

    I still use it when I need deep concealment and can’t carry the bag, but that’s become a rarity. I’m so used to the bag now it’s almost my man purse, as much as I hate to admit that.

  • Van Phillips August 4, 2017, 11:37 am

    You missed my favorite which is the “day-planner”! I’ve attended Board meetings with people who are very anti-gun and had my “day-planner” sitting (unzipped) on the conference table in front of me …. with no reaction or interest at all. But, make sure you have a molded sleeve (holster) made for your pistol to Velcro in so your pistol won’t slide around.

  • Cyrus August 4, 2017, 6:59 am

    I like the jacket but the mag holders need to be on the other side to help with weight distribution – I would buy this!

    • Tom S. August 4, 2017, 10:10 am

      The ones I have are ambidextrous, containing a pouch for the magazines on both sides as well as pouches for the gun on both sides. If you want to go loaded for bear, you could carry two guns and four magazines. The only thing I don’t like about the coats I have is they have no hoods.

  • Dennis Brennan August 4, 2017, 6:34 am

    I purchased a “barn coat” from, I think it was Sig, several years ago. It looks like a Carhart work coat. It features big pockets inside the coat, on both sides, for storing a gun. It was a wise purchase. It looks no different than any other winter coat and it allows me to carry two guns, if I am so inclined. The pockets are spacious. Even my S&W model 29 with a 6″ barrel fits comfortably. A gun that size does cause the coat to sag somewhat so carrying two weapons of similar weight and size is recommended. I find it much easier than wearing holsters.

    • Lee Elliott August 4, 2017, 10:15 am

      Check out the \’BERNE Echo One CC winter coat\’. Amazon has them. I love mine. Fully functional for everything else also. Super high quality. Carrhart tough. They have two outer carry pockets that rip down(velcro) for FAST draw and you\’d never know from looking. Ambidextrous too. Why waste time having to open your coat? Gun in one pocket, mags in the other. My Detroit Holster \’John R\’ kydex holster has velcro that affixes to the inside of the velcro lined outer pocket. I would have paid double for mine.

  • DEFENDER August 4, 2017, 5:45 am

    I ended up with a compromise that many will not like but works for me.
    Fanny Pack. Yeah, yeah – I know.
    But
    I can carry (comfortably) a bigger gun(9C v Shield IWB) with more capacity(almost double) – S&W M&P9C.
    I shoot M&P9 competition and the 9C shoots a lot more like my match gun.
    I also help with church security and worry about facing a mass shooter with a rifle.
    I can access it while in the car w/o having to take it off/out.
    I found IWB carry a pain in the A*s. At 70yo it tends to slide down now.
    Fanny Pack Fashion bonus! – at 70yo no one cares what you look like anyway.:)
    It does slow my draw from 1-2 sec to 2-3 sec but worth the compromise, 4me anyway.
    I carry the pack at 3 o-clock, similar enough to IWB at 4 o-clock.
    I rigged a holster(held in place vertical ) so the gun would sit in it but the holster does not come out of the bag on the draw.
    Gun comes out, holster stays in.
    So the draw is just like from IWB.
    IWB – Shield I had 8 + 1 + 8spare = 17 tot.
    Fanny Pac – M&P9C 12 +1+17spare = 30 tot.
    How did I get 17spare you say for a 9C? I carry a full size M&P Mag as a spare – yes it will fit the 9C.

    • john creveling August 4, 2017, 9:22 am

      Sounds like you have your ducks in a row and it works well.Another plus is it is on your body when your wearing it.Who cares about style for us older guys its about comfort.

    • Terry August 4, 2017, 10:49 am

      I needed something to carry wearing scrubs and used a Maxpediton bag for a long time. This though had it’s drawbacks for access. I want to have my pistol accessible without having something hanging off my shoulder. Fanny pack is an option, but kind of in the way. I settled on the Brave Response beely band. Like you I am a little older and carry a little extra around the middle so I was a little hesitant about a bellyband, which seemed to be made for the “operator” with a six pack. But the Brave Response has a thinner elastic band that allows it to ride comfortable on my hips. It has 3 extra slots for magazines or lights. I carry a Springfield XDS in .45 with 2 additional magazines and it is very comfortable. I have been wearing it daily for about a year and a half. I ended up wearing with street clothes and is the only holster I use for concealed carry now. OWB for when I’m at the ranch working. I will carry a backup in an ECD bag. Still looking for the perfect bag. Just ordered a concealed pack from A.G. Russell that looks promising.

    • Clayton Mcbride August 4, 2017, 11:56 am

      I’d love to see Fanny Packs become popular again, So I don’t stand out as much when wearing mine (I too use one for packing heat)

    • John L August 4, 2017, 4:20 pm

      Senior as well. Not many positives in getting up there in years, but I do enjoy the relative invisibility:). Glad to see you doing security at church. I do the same, but carry IWB. I have to as my congregation would not accept it if they knew. Hey, better and old sheep dog than no sheepdog.

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